Bersih leaders stopped on police order

The names of Bersih leaders are on the police list, says the Immigration Department. 

Teoh El Sen, FMT

The Immigration Department was acting on the directive of the police when it stopped Bersih leaders at the airports as they were departing or re-entering the country.

According to the department, the Bukit Aman police headquarters has a list of names of several Bersih leaders.

“We’re following SOP [Standard Operating Procedure]. If the name (given to us) is in our system, then we need to check the entry and exit of that person,” the department’s director-general Alias Ahmad told FMT.

He said that in the case of Bersih 2.0 co-chairman S Ambiga, the department followed the police directive which stated that “every transaction of this person needs to be reported to the Special Branch officers attached to the airport”.

“So when we found her name on the list, we called the police, and they came and took over from us to interview her. That was it. We didn’t arrest or detain her,” he said.

“To me this is not harassment,” he said, alluding to Ambiga’s allegation that she has been Bersih leaders who claimed they have been harassed at airports when they were stopped.

Pressed for more details on the “police directive”, Alias could not answer.

He also could not verify the names of the Bersih leaders.

“We do not know why their names are on the list. We are just the implementer, the gatekeepers.

“It is the same with a bankrupt person… his name will show up on the computer too,” he said.

On Tuesday, Ambiga was stopped for about 10 minutes when she about to board a flight to Australia. The officers who detained her could not provide an answer as to why she was stopped.

She then claimed she was being ‘deliberately harassed’ by the authorities.

Ambiga was the fifth Bersih steering committee member to be stopped by immigration officers while travelling overseas.

Last week, Bersih steering committee member Andrew Khoo was also stopped on his way to Bangkok. He was also stopped again when he returned.

Steering committee members Maria Chin Abdullah, Yeo Yang Poh and Wong Chin Huat have also been subjected to similar treatment in September.

An attempt to get an official response from the police failed as calls to Bukit Aman public relations head ACP Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf went unanswered.